Ahh, ICCAT. Our friendly International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. Truly a group of wise and responsible stewards of the seas.
This has gone too far. The greed and corruption running this Commission are now about as well camouflaged as a stegosaurus trying to hide behind a postage stamp. Forgive the hackneyed humor, but there is no longer any doubt whatsoever that ICCAT does in fact stand for “The International Conspiracy to Catch All the Tuna.”
Last week, at a meeting in Recife, Brazil, the scientific advisers to the Commission proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Northern bluefin tuna is in a critical situation. Not a single delegate dared voice an objection to the fact that the animal’s perilous status qualified it for protection under CITES.
Numerous scientists from a multitude of different countries and environmental organizations submitted proposals stating unequivocally that the quota must be dropped from the current 19,500 metric tons to no more than 8,000 metric tons, if we hope to give the population even a 50% chance of recovery.
The science was bulletproof. There was not a single shred of evidence that could countervail this assertion. Greenpeace, WWF, and other environmental groups belabored the point until they were hoarse. Charles Clover, author of The End of the Line and prominent champion of the bluefin, made the trek to Recife to plead the poor fish’s case – he even managed to arrange a screening of the film for the ICCAT delegates.
So, when all was said and done, what was the final decision of the Commission?
In its infinite wisdom, the august body that is ICCAT voted to set the upcoming season’s bluefin quota at 13,500 metric tons.
This number far exceeds any remotely defensible figure. It’s a quota with zero scientific basis that flies in the face of conventional wisdom and virtually ensures the commercial extinction of this animal. Such a calculus is justifiable only to the members of what is clearly no more than a political cult idolizing greed, corruption, and piracy.
I need to take a few seconds and collect myself before continuing, lest this post degenerate into rabid polemics and I end up with spittle all over my computer screen. I am so angry right now that it is difficult for me to express myself in a manner that doesn’t involve the wanton destruction of some nearby appliance.
ICCAT has failed. It has failed us, and it has failed the bluefin. It has failed the oceans, it has failed the planet, and it has failed our children.
In fact, ICCAT has even managed to fail the myopic fishing interests that control it. Any corruption-riddled junta worth its salt should at least be able to satisfy its puppeteers to the degree that it provide them with their illicit plunder for more than just a couple of years. This quota will not only ensure the destruction of the bluefin, but it will result in the controlling parties not even having a resource to exploit come the end of the Mayan calendar.
Immediately folloing the closing session of the Recife meeting, Charles Clover wrote a scathing and comprehensive letter in response to this kangaroo court escapade, noting that not only was the Commission unable to adopt sensible protections for several shark species, ICCAT actually voted to allow three member nations to continue to use drift nets — one of the most indiscriminate and destructive fishing methods on the face of the planet. And thus do we all sally forth together into this bright new tuna-free world.
So where’s the silver lining here? Believe it or not, it rests with the US government.
Nearly a month ago, I wrote a short post about how Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), had passed on Monaco’s proposal and threw her support behind ICCAT with the proviso that ICCAT set “responsible science-based quotas,” among other instructions. Clearly, the Commission did not adhere to this directive. As such, it is now Dr. Lubchenco’s responsibility to live up to her promise and champion Monaco’s proposal to grant the Northern bluefin tuna protection under CITES Appendix 1. And it is our responsibility, as stewards and citizens of this planet, to show her our support.
I urge all who read this to send an email to Dr. Jane Lubchenco at Jane.Lubchenco@noaa.gov reminding her to rise to the occasion and stand up for the bluefin tuna. ICCAT clearly cannot do so, regardless of the clarity and quantity of science that would justify such action. It is time to cast off the trappings of this useless, obsolete Commission and to try something that will actually work.
Additional background on this issue can be found in a previous post.